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Kingston public health hopes to immunize 120,000 locals against coronavirus by fall

FILE - KINGSTON, ON - JANUARY 12: Pharmacy staff at Kingston Health Sciences Centre prepare doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. (Photo by Matthew Manor/KHSC)

It’s a goal that may be subject to change, but KFL&A Public Health says its hoping to get 120,000 local people immunized against coronavirus before September.

“We hope by the end of the summer to have immunized the most vulnerable members of our population and start to build population immunity heading into September,” Dr. Kieran Moore, medical officer of health for the region said in an interview Tuesday.

Currently, KFL&A is focusing on administering its first batch of about 1,950 first-dose Pfizer vaccines, delivered to the region on Jan. 11.

Read more: Long-term care workers receive southeastern Ontario’s first COVID-19 vaccines

Over the last week, the available doses were given to long-term care workers and some patients across the southeastern region, including the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark and the Hastings and Prince Edward catchment areas.

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Moore said at first, vaccines were doled out at clinics set up at Kingston General Hospital, but local health units quickly shifted to mobile vaccinations.

“We have learned from Toronto and Ottawa, who’ve had the vaccines sooner than us, how to move it safely out of that minus 80 freezer right through to the long-term care facilities, and all three health units did that this weekend,” he said.

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Moore said the three health units have touched base after the weekend’s mobile vaccinations, and were pleased with the initial rollout.

This will be the preferred method going forward, he said.

There are roughly 5,200 residents in long-term care homes and high-risk retirement homes in the region, and Moore said he hopes to get them their first doses by the provincial deadline of Feb. 15.

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He said it’s best to receive Pfizer’s second shot between 21 and 28 days after the initial dose, and that KFL&A is aiming to deliver second doses at the end of February and the beginning of March.

Read more: Delaying second dose of coronavirus vaccines is ‘risky gamble’: experts

KFL&A will then jump into its second phase of vaccinations in April, in what Moore called the “population-based strategy,” with mass-immunization clinics peppered throughout the region.

Moore said second-phase vaccines will target the most elderly and vulnerable first, and then incrementally be administered to the next age-group. The vaccines are only approved for those 16 and older, he added.

KFL&A Public Health expects to vaccinate 60,000 people a month over the spring and summer. Moore expects locals to receive their first and second doses a month apart, so by September, there should be two groups of 60,000 people with both doses of the vaccine, making for a total of 120,000 residents vaccinated.

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KFL&A’s population stands at just over 210,000, which means the health unit is aiming to have more than half the eligible population immunized by the fall.

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It will be the beginning of population immunity, which is what we need,” Moore said. Health experts consider that herd immunity is reached when 70 per cent of the population is immunized, which Moore said, when it’s accomplished, will be a key step in protecting vulnerable populations.

But, he said everyone will have to manage their expectations, and that all plans are subject to change due to potential supply issues.

There will be bumps along the road like we had with the availability of Pfizer. But I think the community should be assured we have a flexible, adaptive plan that will meet the needs of our community,” he said.

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